IRRODL special issue on connectivism

Our paper…….

Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0

Roy Williams, Regina Karousou, Jenny Mackness

…. has finally been published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. We ran a webinar about this paper in February (with permission of IRRODL) in the ELESIG community (see and have been waiting for the paper to be published ever since.

It is great to see familiar names of other authors in the issue of the journal and I’m looking forward to reading their papers and gaining further insights into connectivism.

I’m also hoping that we will receive feedback on our paper which was very enjoyable to work on – thanks to Roy and Regina ūüôā

#PLENK2010 Research, technology and networks

The guest speaker for the second week of the PLENK course has been Martin Weller Рwhat a treat!  The link to the recording of his Elluminate presentation is here

Basically – his talk was about how depressed he is that research is not ‘keeping up with the times’ in terms of advances in technology and networked learning. I am a new researcher – but I can so completely relate to this.

So what did he say? These are the key points as I interpreted him –

  • researchers¬†are not making full use of the new technologies available to them
  • they are risk averse and work in ‘traditional’ mode
  • they work in small personal contexts, often with the same groups of¬†people¬†and do not make use of network possibilities
  • they don’t like the spontaneity of blogs
  • they are conservative and cautious

Why are they like this? Because they may not have tenure and therefore have to ‘fit in’ with University requirements. If you want tenure you are encouraged to be traditional and are therefore less likely to be innovative or take risks. Research is about ‘control’ – particularly for scientists seeking¬†predictive¬†models, whereas the very nature of working in Web 2 is the exact opposite. We don’t know what will happen in Web 2.0. It is unpredictable.

Martin then went on to discuss the changing nature of research as evidenced by the number of people who are publishing in blogs , experimenting as they go along, turning to people in the network for peer review.  However, there are difficulties with this as I have already posted here following a discussion with Matthias.

What I found particularly interesting in Martin’s presentation is that it was directly relevant to how I have recently been working. I am a new researcher. My first two papers were both published following the traditional pattern.

1. K. Guldberg, J. Mackness (2009) Foundations of communities of practice: enablers and barriers to participation. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning

2. Rhona Sharpe, Jenny Mackness (2010)Evaluating the development of a community of e-learning researchers: from short-term funding to sustainability International Journal of Web Based Communities 6 (2) p. 148

These two papers are in closed journals. The second has received one expression of interest via email. The first has received about 15 expressions of interest via email.

Following participation in CCK08 John Mak, Roy Williams and I published two papers in the open environment of the Networked Learning Conference. We had also published drafts of the papers in the CCK09 Moodle site before submitting them to the Networked Learning Conference. This felt much more like an ‘open’ process.

Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC John Mak, Sui, Fai, Roy Williams, Jenny Mackness (2010) Networked Learning Conference, Aarlborg p. 275

The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC Jenny Mackness, John Mak, Sui, Fai, Roy Williams (2010)Networked Learning Conference, Aarlborg p. 266-274

Presenting these papers at the Networked Learning conference was disappointing from my perspective, but George and Stephen invited us to present the Ideals and Reality paper again in an Elluminate session and that was much more rewarding. We were able to ‘talk’ to more people and this made the research seem more worthwhile.

Recently, I have gone one step further with Matthias Melcher, in working for many weeks/months on a paper on e-resonance and simply publishing it here on this blog – but the process we worked through was not open to all.

The points that have arisen for me in all this are:

1. If we want research to be open there are two stages to consider – the actual researching and then the publishing.
2. Being ‘open’ at the researching stage might invalidate the research. There are difficulties associated with confidentiality and ‘ownership’ of ideas and writing.
3. Open publishing also brings its difficulties. How can the work be measured/peer reviewed?

I suppose all this brings in to question what we understand by research. There was discussion in the Elluminate ‘chat’ about the boundaries between learning and research becoming blurred and Stephen posted that ‘Learning = Research’. I thought at the time that this depends on how you define research. Who is it for? What is it for? How will the ‘network’ influence research and will research be able to influence the network?

I really enjoyed Martin’s talk, but I was left wondering whether we had really got to grips with how research will be influenced by networked learning and Web 2.0. ¬†My experience is that there are still an awful lot of people in HE (where a lot of research currently happens) who are working in institutions with high research ratings, with outstanding publications records, but who are not connected on the Web in the sense that we have been talking about. This indicates that good research has been and continues to be published without the Web or being networked. I think we need to think more/be more explicit about what might be lost by giving up this ‘traditional’ system and more explicit about what we can gain by being more ‘innovative’.

I thought Martin could perhaps have been more explicit about why his really good presentation was relevant to a PLENK course.

Elluminate v. Networked Learning Conference

Heli has made yet another interesting post in her blog reflecting on the CCK08 experience following our Elluminate session yesterday in which George Siemens kindly invited us to share our research paper – The ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC.

The link to the recording of this session is here –

After my Networked Learning Conference hiatus (as a friend has called it) I really had no expectations that anyone would attend the Elluminate session, especially since it was only advertised a day or so before (although George and Stephen do have huge networks and just a word from them can make all the difference) – I emailed Roy and John saying that I thought we would be speaking to ourselves!

It’s ironic that I spent over ¬£1000 of my own money getting myself to the Networked Learning Conference where we had ¬†just 20 minutes to present our paper, were allowed time for only one question, where the session was attended by less than half the people in yesterday’s Elluminate session and where there was no follow up discussion ….. and yet yesterday for the Elluminate session, I could sit in the comfort of my own home, with a cup of coffee, seated in a comfortable chair, incurring ¬†no additional¬†expense and discuss our research with 40 people! I know which I prefer and I want to thank everyone who attended. There were lots of names that I recognised in the participant list.

I do rather wish I had been a participant in the Elluminate session though. I have never been able to follow the chat and the whiteboard (contrary to popular belief not all women are good at multi-tasking!), so having to focus on speaking and answering George’s¬†questions, meant that I didn’t follow the chat, so I sincerely hope that it didn’t appear that I was ignoring people. Fortunately, Roy and John agreed beforehand that they would keep an eye on the chat. It was unfortunate that Roy’s audio was not working as he would have offered an alternative perspective, as did John through the questions he asked. Just because we worked together for all those months doesn’t mean that we agreed on everything ūüôā

Despite the limitations imposed on what I could follow by having to take the microphone, I know there was a lot of chat in the chat room. No-one wanted to take the microphone, apart from John and George, but that didn’t mean that people were ‘silent’. How different from the Networked Learning Conference, where we sat in silence and listened to presentations – although I suppose the equivalent there was that a few people were on Twitter. I don’t know a lot about Twitter, but I doubt it’s the same experience as being involved in a fast moving energetic chat room.

In Elluminate I was aware that whilst I was presenting/speaking, many people, perhaps even the majority were holding conversations of their own, possibly on unrelated subjects. I should imagine that I was only listened to by some of the people for some of the time, but this somehow felt much more¬†satisfactory¬†than my experience at the Networked Learning Conference. In the Elluminate session, people were engaged, active, energetic – there was a palpable ‘buzz’ in the room – or perhaps it was just the buzz of my nervous system jangling ūüôā

This experience of presenting in Elluminate has caused me to reflect again on the role of the ‘teacher’ and the extent to which a teacher should intervene or take control in a classroom situation. This appears to be an unresolved dilemma in open courses, particularly massive, open, online courses. As someone said in our research, in these courses, where teachers/instructors necessarily have to take a ‘hands off’ approach because it is simply impossible to interact with each participant in a large open network, there is a tendency for the ‘kids to take control of the classroom’. I think the ‘kids were in control of the classroom’ ¬†in the Elluminate session – not complete control because ultimately any one of the moderators could have pulled the plug, but certainly in control of the conversation. This seems to be the accepted norm in online conferencing, so why does it seem more difficult to accept in different educational settings?

Some questions that arise for me in considering the teacher’s changing role are:

  • Does the teacher need to control or direct the conversation/learning? – always, sometimes, never?
  • Is the teacher necessarily the expert in a given learning situation? Who is the expert? How is expertise defined?It’s interesting that the discussion that attracted most interest in the¬†Critical Literacies course was the one on “the¬†evolving¬†definition of ‘expert’ ”.
  • Does the teacher need to intervene in the learning process? When? Why? How much?
  • Is the teacher accountable ¬†for the learner s learning? Always? Sometimes? Never?
  • Does the teacher need to build a relationship with a learner? What might be the ethical consequences of this relationship?

Judging from some of the discussion in the Elluminate session, these questions remain unresolved for teachers moving into massive, open, online learning environments.

Follow-up on Networked Learning Conference Presentation

Following the presentation of our paper to the Networked Learning Conference 2010, George Siemens has invited us to discuss this further in an Elluminate session, this Friday РJuly 2nd 11:00 in Toronto Р16:00 in the UK.

These are the details of the paper and a bit of background:

Title: The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a Massive Open Online Course

The three authors, Jenny Mackness, Sui Fai John Mak and Roy Williams attended and met on the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge open online course in 2008, which came to be known as CCK08. The result of our meeting and learning, was a collaborative research project in which we explored learners’ experiences on the course and the implications of autonomy, diversity, openness and connectedness (the principles of connectivism) for learning and course design. We look forward to sharing this research and discussing emerging issues.

The link for the session is: Link:

And  here is the link to the prezi we presented at the networked learning conference.

Finally, here is a Handout Р Ideals and Reality Handout 240410 to go with our presentation Рit gives a bit more information to takes away.

Ethics and the Learner Voice

With increasing research into the learner experience comes increasing need to consider the ethics of this type of research. The only two questions we received about the two papers we presented at the Networked Learning Conference in Aarlborg, were both about ethics.

The first question was ‘What are the ethical considerations that need to be taken into account when ‘experimenting’ on learners?’ This was in relation to the CCK08 course in which George Siemens and Stephen Downes attempted to destabilise the notion of a course. Our Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC paper concluded that there needs to be more research into the ethics of running massive open online courses – so this question was not a surprise and unfortunately the 20 minute slot that we had for presenting the paper and answering questions did not allow time for discussion.

The second question related to our Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC paper. The question was whether it is ethical to aggregate blog posts from course participants. As far as I can remember (in CCK08) participants were were asked to tag their blog posts with #CCK08, so that they could be easily located. ¬†Most participants would also have been familiar with Stephen Downes’ OLDaily – so I’m not sure where this leaves the ethics question.

To learn more and hear what others say, I will attend the ELESIG Webinar On Wednesday of this week (May 19th)

Webinar: Doing It Right! Methods, Ethics and Hearing the Learner Voice.

Joint HE Ethics and Web 2.0 SIG & ELESIG, with John Traxler

Wednesday 19 May 2010

11:00am ‚Äď 12.30pm

Speakers (not necessarily in this order):

Dr Roy Williams, University of Portsmouth, ‚ÄúParadoxes of¬†Audio¬†Narratives”

Liz Masterman, Oxford University Computing Services, ‚ÄúEthical issues associated with an extended e-mail interview technique: what we called our “Pen-Pal” Method‚ÄĚ

Amanda Jefferies, University of Hertfordshire, ‚Äú‚ÄėUsing student constructed video diaries ‚Äď reflections from the STROLL project”

Karen Fitzgibbon, University of Glamorgan, ‚ÄúHelping to shape and enhance the student experience‚ÄĚ

Ali Messer, Roehampton University, ‚ÄúAppreciative enquiry as a method in part for ethical reasons‚ÄĚ

Adele Cushing, Barnet College, ‚ÄúDo‚Äôs and Don‚Äôts‚Äô from a mobile learning project ‚Äď experiences and personal accounts‚ÄĚ

For more information see:

All ELESIG events are free. The only requirement is that you become a member (this is also free!)

The Reality of the Networked Learning Conference

The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a Conference ( a personal perspective)

This week I have presented for the very first time (with Roy Williams) a paper at a conference (the Networked Learning Conference)

This has been a steep learning curve for me which I reflect on here. I had ideals ‚Äď yes ‚Äď and the reality is that I feel disillusioned with the conference process.

My ideals were that the research we were working on was worthwhile, was honest and open, and raised questions which would be of interest to the networked learning community. Big mistake ‚Äď little or no interest from the 160 participants in the conference.

My ideals also included the hope that the networked learning conference as a whole would address some of the issues raised by the connectivism course ‚Äď such as the implications of autonomy, diversity, openness and connectedness for the design of education courses in the future. These seem to me to be very relevant to the future of networked learning ‚Äď but ‚ÄėNo‚Äô ‚Äď I did not come across any discussion of these. In fact most of the sessions I attended (and there were so many parallel sessions that it was a real lottery as to which session to attend) presented material that was not new to me. Only Etienne Wenger (keynote speaker) succeeded in firing up my imagination and enthusiasm for the future of education and thinking about how people learn.

The reality was that whilst the conference was extremely friendly and socially a great experience (it was great to meet in the flesh people I have only met previously online), a conference is a mechanism for people to present their paper to meet the requirements of their HE institutions. If you get your paper presented all is well, but overall I did not get the sense that people were trying to grasp the real issues. The only other Networked Learning Conference I have attended was in 2004, which left me ‚Äėbuzzing‚Äô at the end of every session. To be honest ‚Äď apart from the social contacts ‚Äď for the most part this conference left me cold. I overheard someone say that the Networked Learning Conference has ‘lost it’s way’ and this resonated with me. As far as I could see, whilst the host country has changed, the format has not changed at all. A very disturbing thought when attending the conference cost me personally, as an independent consultant, over ¬£1000. I would like to see a more innovative approach.

I have in the past academic year, attended some ‚Äėunconferences‚Äô. These seem to me to fit better with recent thinking about how we connect to people and negotiate our learning (and discuss our research aspirations) ‚Äď but I am realistic enough to know that this probably doesn‚Äôt fit with the demands of HE institutions (although as an independent consultant these don‚Äôt concern me).

I have followed the Twitter stream and frankly am bemused by the ‚Äėisn‚Äôt this wonderful‚Äô posts. There is only one which seems to me to be critically evaluative, where someone has said that the conference participants seem to be split between those interested in theory and those interested in practice. I agree.

I would like to see future networked learning conferences change to include:

  • More consideration of value for money. I know for most people institutions pay ‚Äď but to approach it as if each individual is paying out of their own pocket would, I think, improve it. This conference was hugely expensive and I can see no justification for this.
  • More support of new researchers, e.g. do not have new researcher sessions in parallel with the high flyers ‚Äď inevitably new researchers are left out in the cold.
  • Fewer parallel sessions (although I realise that this wouldn‚Äôt meet institutions requirements for their employees to present) and more opportunity to focus on the themes of the conference and raise questions about the key issues for the future of networked learning and the implications of this for the future of our education systems.
  • More negotiation about the content of the conference.
  • More evidence that the conference is trying to address the issues of massification, privatisation and globalisation that networked education will have to address. Some of the sessions I attended, including some of the symposia presented by well recognised names ‚Äď were I felt, seriously out of date in their thinking
  • I think I must be coming from a completely different place with regard to my thinking about networked learning and the issues that HE needs to address for the future ‚Äď but I was disappointed by the content of the networked learning conference ‚Äď apart from Etienne‚Äôs presentation.

However ‚Äď looking at it from the glass half full perspective:

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I learned more about myself and my aspirations, what I can do and what I can’t do, what I aspire to and what I will give a miss, what my values are and what I am prepared to speak out about to defend these values

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I met some wonderful people, including members of the CPsquare community and others

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The food in Denmark is wonderful, even if it is hugely expensive

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Copenhagen is a beautiful and intriguing city ‚Äď especially the hippy community. Aalborg is also¬†worth¬†a visit and wonderfully hospitable

–¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The experience has made me reflect deeply on whether or not I wish to continue doing research. I am an independent consultant, so I am only doing this out of interest. There are not career benefits for me – only the benefits of continuing to pursue an interest in how people learn and the role of the teacher.

Second NLC Presentation 2010

Here is the presentation for our second paper which we will present on Tuesday at the Networked Learning Conference in Aalborg.

Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC

I think we are all set to go now.

Networked Learning Conference Presentation 2010

Below is the link to our presentation of our paper for the Networked Learning Conference 2010.  This is for the  Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC  paper.

The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC Presentation


We will also be providing a handout to go with the presentation at the conference : Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC Handout

We’re really hoping that this will go well, that we get some people at our session¬†and that people at the conference will find it interesting – but I expect everyone else is hoping this as well!

And of course we have the other paper to present as well!

Visitor/resident – some further thoughts

I can’t make up my mind whether I’m a visitor or resident. As Dave White says in his presentation¬†its not a dichotomy – but rather a duality (which is very much Wenger’s approach to communities of practice). In his presentation Dave makes some comments that I have been thinking about:

Visitors leave no trace – my feeling is that this is not possible. Maybe they hope to leave no trace. I can see that they could leave an absolutely minimal trace, but not no trace. It’s a bit like when someone briefly enters a meeting and leaves quickly – their leaving and absence still affects the meeting. In relation to this, I believe that ‘lurkers’ can affect what is going on through their absence.

Visitors worry about identity theft – I would say that visitors might worry about identity full stop, particularly if the visitors are novices. In fact isn’t it possible that visitors may be visitors not by choice but because they are novices in the online environment.

Residents try to keep visible by continually feeding the machine – have residents subjected themselves to the ‘tyranny of participation?’

Remaining visible is important for residents – Why? What is in it for them, particularly if a lot of what they post is banal? Isn’t being perceived of as banal counterproductive?

The word ‘nebulous’ can be used to describe residents – Dave didn’t talk about this and I’m not sure what this means.

A resident is less likely to have their own blog – this seems to contradict the research that John, Roy and I did¬†where we equated residency (we called this a ‘home’) to a blog. This brings up the complexity of the way in which we use language and metaphors to describe the way in which people learn and interact online.

The visitor is no more or less technically adept than the resident – this depends on whether the visitor is a visitor by choice

Visitors take an individual approach to working online – I don’t see an individual approach or autonomy as the preserve of visitors. The question of autonomy is complex and not easy to understand or unpick.

Lots to think about. I’m looking forward to the session tonight – Elluminate Conference

Are you a visitor or a resident in the online environment?

I am posting this invitation on behalf of Roy Williams, Dave White, Sui Fai John Mak and Gus Goncalves.

Please join us

You are invited to join us in the Elluminate conference on Wednesday 4th November at 20:00 GMT to discuss the title question with Dave White from Oxford University.

The Link for the conference is: Elluminate Conference

You can also find it in the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK09) course.

We will be holding a conversation about Dave White’s vandr (visitors and residents) model. We are all trying to understand the new networked learning media, as users, but also as academics, teachers, trainers, and researchers. So we need frameworks to describe what’s going on, and that’s what this conference is all about: none of us has the final answers, and I guess most of us find networked learning is so interesting precisely because there are no final answers.

We have asked Dave to take us through an overview of some of the key points of his model. Then we will get some feedback on how you see yourself, in terms of his model. After that we will ask Dave to take us into more of the detail. Interruptions are welcome.


We have set up a twitter site (vandrcck09) where you can add additional comments, outside the chat channel in Elluminate. We are trying to make space for more substantial responses to the conversation in Elluminate, and it looks like the only way to do so is to write a longer comment in a forum post, or blog, and then post a tweet in ‘vandrcc09’, which includes a link to your blog or the forum. We’ll see if it works.

Models and Resources

Please feel free to use the vandr twitter site, from now on, to post ideas and links to aspects of the vandr model, or any other models and research, that you find useful to describe what goes on in networked learning.